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Crab Season Cracking for Christmas

Fishermen and seafood market at Pillar Point Harbor bounce back after delay to season opener.

This time of year, the sweetest savory bite in Half Moon Bay just might be at .

If the timing is right, a billowy cloud of sweet steam will hit you as you walk past the on the way down to Johnson Pier.

On Wednesday afternoon, Spencer Marceaux was enveloped in the cloud himself as he pulled piping hot crabs from the inside of the seafood market's cooker into a bin beside him.

Since Pillar Point fisherman Jim Anderson brought back the season's to Half Moon Bay on Nov. 29, the Princeton Seafood Company has sold, cooked and cracked "several thousands pounds" of the crustacean, according to General Manager Jay Barnhisel.

As of Wednesday, customers have placed orders for 3,500 lbs. of crabs they'll pick up on Christmas Eve, and there's still room to accept more orders, Barnhisel said.

has been a longstanding tradition for the Half Moon Bay community. The annual Christmas Eve harbor run fits in with the 30-plus years owners Marty and Mary Botham have run their business as a part of the community, Barnhisel said.

On that day, Barnhisel and his staff will get there at around 5 or 6 a.m. to be ready for the queue that will form outside their door for their opening at 9 a.m. The staff will work until 5 p.m. that day, Barnhisel said.

But because workers will be preparing customers' orders in advance of their arrival this year, "the line will go faster than last year," Barnhisel said.

For $2, Princeton Seafood will cook a customer's crab, then clean and crack it for another $2.50 for any crab that was bought off the dock. If a customer buys the crab at Princeton Seafood, the $6.50 per pound price includes cooking, cleaning and cracking, Barnhisel said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Marceau and co-worker Jared Hebert cleaned and cracked crab for customers including Anderson himself, who had just returned from a crabbing trip and would be leaving early Thursday morning for another round.

Anderson, who is selling his crab for $4.50 off his boat at the harbor, said that it's been a good season for him so far.

"The crabs are sweeter and meatier than last year, since they've had more time to mature since the commercial season opener got pushed back," he said.

The season was delayed due to a price negotiations stalemate that pushed back the opening of this year's Central Coast Dungeness crab season almost two weeks later than expected. The strike ended abruptly when San Francisco fishermen unexpectedly on Nov. 28.

Since then, the fishermen have received a price of $2.25 per pound for the "majority" of the season thus far from commercial seafood buyers, Anderson said.

"We're starting to see some fishermen pick up and go home now," Anderson said, "because there's less crab this year than last."

But Penny Webb, the wife of Pillar Point fisherman , said that her husband and his crew will continue to crab through the new year, Super Bowl Sunday, and the Lunar New Year — all times when crab is in high demand.

Webb said that she and her husband are already sold out of crab for Christmas, and that her phone continues to ring with more requests for orders.

"It's been nonstop for both of us," she said. "But we're very thankful."

The Princeton Seafood Company is open today (Dec. 23) during its usual hours from 10:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. On Dec. 24, it will be open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Anderson will be selling the crabs that he caught on Thursday today (Dec. 23) and tomorrow (Dec. 24) off his Allaine boat at Pillar Point Harbor starting at 9 a.m. Other fishermen are likely to be selling off their boats as well. To determine who is selling off the docks, view the board outside the Harbormaster's Office at Pillar Point Harbor.

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Davy Skip December 23, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Are the crab boats also open on Christmas day?

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